View of Taj Mahal

India: More than you can imagine

More colourful, stark, energetic, peaceful, beautiful and spiritual than I could ever have imagined; India stole my heart years ago and has never let it go. It truly is what they say, India is an assault on your senses, but oh what a wonderful assault. Discovering India will take you well out of your comfort zone but isn’t that what the true essence of travel is all about?

James Michener once said, ‘If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.’ 

If you mention India to anyone, the majestic image of the Taj Mahal is sure to come to mind. You may have seen it on TV or in the movies, but nothing really prepares you for just how stunning and imposing this monument to love actually is. Undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, my first glimpse of its alabaster shimmer in the early morning light brought tears to my eyes.  Yes, it really is that breath-taking.  Another moment that took my breath away and caused more watery eyes, for different reasons, was when I took my first mouthful of a traditional Indian curry.  After the sensations came back to my tongue, I realised it was so much more flavoursome than its westernised versions.

A woman traveling in Indian Palace

I don’t need to tell you that India is vast country that would take many lifetimes over to experience it all. Rajasthan and its Golden Triangle of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra are of course at the top of any traveller’s bucket list.  Our Highlights of Northern India trip is like a smorgasbord of sensory delights, that not only tick off these iconic locations but also include exhilarating game drives searching for the elusive Bengal tiger and visits to the mystical Varanasi - one of the oldest cities in the world.  This melting pot of experiences provides a great glimpse into this fascinating country as does the Colours of Rajasthan, a slightly longer journey, that extends to the palace city of Udaipur and the pilgrimage town of Pushkar.

Panorama of houseboat on Kerala backwaters. Kerala, India.

The riotous colour palette of the north with its rust red deserts, distinctive pink, blue and white cities contrasts beautifully with the softer southern palette of lush greens and gemstone blues. Here lies the tranquil Kerala backwaters, the spectacular Western Ghats, cool hill stations, verdant tea plantations, colonial cities and atmospheric temples.  Our trip The Tropical South is one of a number that showcase this beautiful area of the country.  Throughout India however, it’s the people, their culture and traditions that have gifted me the most precious memories.

Have you seen the movie ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’?  There’s a scene where one of the characters Jean, for whom India is definitely not her cup of tea, asks a question of Graham who clearly loves it.  ‘How can you bare this country? What do you see that I don’t?’ and Graham replies, ‘The light, colours, smiles, it teaches me something’.

Old Man in India

This sums it up for me.  I can’t exactly define what India teaches me.  All I can say is that I’m learning a lifelong lesson every time I visit, and I don’t want it to end. I have seen more riches in the warm smiles of a local vendor outside a dusty Indian railway station than I could ever see in the Tower of London.

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